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What’s the difference between an internal and external shock absorbing lanyard?

This article discusses the differences between internal and external shock absorbing lanyards. Although both styles pass the same testing and provide the same safety factor, the absorption of the forces of a fall happen differently.

First, the external shock absorbing lanyard has a “shock pack”. The deceleration takes place with a controlled unravelling of folded webbing with stitching designed to break and tear away at a certain rate to absorb forces. This shock pack is similar to what is found on certain types of self-retracting lifelines.

The major difference between an internal and external shock absorbing lanyard is how you can see and inspect the method of deceleration.

The method of deceleration on an internal lanyard happens completely inside of the outer layer. When inspecting an internal shock absorbing lanyard, Malta Dynamics’ version displays an indicator that becomes legible once the lanyard has experienced a fall or forces similar to a fall.

On an external shock absorbing lanyard, one would inspect the clear outer layer that holds the shock pack tightly together and determine if any webbing has been pulled from the layered section. The remaining portion of the lanyard would be inspected for wear, fraying, loose threads, chemicals or any other indication designated by the manufacturer that would warrant the lanyard to be removed from service.

A lanyard is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “a flexible line of rope, wire rope or strap that generally has a connector at each end for connecting the body belt or body harness to a deceleration device, lifeline or anchorage.” (1910.140(b))

OSHA also gives standards for the use of lanyards listed below or found here.

      • 104(a) – Lifelines, safety belts, and lanyards shall be used only for employee safeguarding. Any lifeline, safety belt, or lanyard actually subjected to in-service loading, as distinguished from static load testing, shall be immediately removed from service and shall not be used again for employee safeguarding.
      • 104(d) – Safety belt lanyard shall be a minimum of 1⁄2 -inch nylon, or equivalent, with a maximum length to provide for a fall of no greater than 6 feet. The rope shall have a nominal breaking strength of 5,400 pounds.
      • 104(e) – All safety belt and lanyard hardware shall be drop forged or pressed steel, cadmium plated in accordance with type 1, Class B plating specified in Federal Specification QQ-P-416. Surface shall be smooth and free of sharp edges.
      • 104(f) – All safety belt and lanyard hardware, except rivets, shall be capable of withstanding a tensile loading of 4,000 pounds without cracking, breaking, or taking a permanent deformation.

There are several different types of lanyards. A non-shock absorbing positioning lanyard that is used only for fall restraint, never for active fall arrest. Other types of lanyards include single and dual leg lanyards with internal or external shock absorption. There are also stretch lanyards and several other variations of fall protection lanyards with varying features. There are also a wide variety of sizes and shapes for connectors.

We know about different types of lanyards and different jobs can show advantages to each of these styles. It is a great idea to consult with safety professionals, workers performing the tasks and the manufacturer or representative for your safety products to be sure you pick the right lanyard for your situation.

Malta Dynamics offers a free, printable lanyard inspection form that can be downloaded here.

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